Inspirational plans for Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, which will see it transformed into a destination visitor attraction with regional and national appeal, have been launched.
To achieve this aspirational vision the museum have teamed up with award-winning architects Allies and Morrison to create a light filled engaging development for the Grade II Listed Edwardian building entitled “Let The Light In”.
The project focuses on taking the building back to its original glory, stripping out the the plasterboard panels and fake ceilings that were added in the 60s and 70s and opening up the windows and roof lights that are currently boarded up.
This will open up the entire building into a seamless bright spacious series of galleries to showcase the fantastic collections as well as significantly expanding education and research facilities.
Plans were unveiled to MPs, business representatives, educational organisations and cultural experts from across the region at a special event in the Museum and Gallery last week (Thursday April 12).
The response was incredibly positive and the delegates were unanimous in support of the thrilling development.
Martin Randall, Adur & Worthing Councils’ Director for the Economy, said: “With 60,000 visitors each year Worthing Museum and Art Gallery already plays a big part in the town’s local economy. But we think it can be even better.
“These changes could create a centre of national significance in the heart of our community. That is great news not only for researchers from the film industry, fashion houses and historians who will get access to the wonderful collections but also for our local community who will have an inspirational cultural hub.
“The museum and art gallery which is part of Worthing Borough Council’s Culture offer will double current visitor numbers to reach 120,000 by the end of 2020.
“Combined with the work we are doing in terms of regeneration and improving public spaces, this is all part of the Councils’ wider vision of bringing investment into Worthing.”
The historic nature of the 110-year-old structure combined with unsympathetic changes over the years means that currently just 50 per cent of the building is accessible to the public and only 5 per cent of the collection is on display.
By stripping back the building to its Edwardian roots, the aim is to give more room to display the museum’s collection in interactive and exciting ways.
The Educational Space will be increased to support even more visits from local schools and there will be a public area dedicated to conservation, moving this work from “backstage” and bringing it under the public gaze.
The plans also include a state-of-the-art costume research centre which will give access to the 30,000 items in the collection. This will turn the the museum into a national centre with 3D photography, 3D printers and pattern cutting tables making it easy to respond to the requests for access we receive from across the country and beyond. The museum is also in discussions with an internationally-renowned fashion house, considering working in close partnership.
Importantly the museum is also considering it’s long term resilience – with the plans including a new café and greater retail space giving a more engaging visitor experience and the opportunity to develop new income streams.
The next stage is to draw in funding for various aspects of the scheme. The key bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund will be completed by June with bids already in to Clore Foundation and Wolfsen. A strategic partnership with private and public funders is also being created.
Worthing Borough Council has committed £125,000 to the project and a further £50,000 to enable the costume research centre to be started by late summer this year.
The ambition is to complete the project by the end of 2020 with the museum remaining open to the public for the majority of the work.
Amanda O’Reilly, Adur & Worthing Councils’ Head of Culture, said: “These really are exciting times for the museum and gallery as well as Worthing as a whole. The vision for the museum is exceptional and we are thrilled to be working on such an exciting project, it goes beyond what we thought possible.
“The Museum is a beautiful building, the collections, particularly the costume, archeology and toys are of national significance and the museum staff and volunteers team are extremely talented and dedicated to the development. Match this with exceptional architects Allies and Morrison who have a real passion for the project, and it is clear something very special is happening.
“The hard work in winning the funding starts now, but we are close to starting phase one and fully expect the project to snowball once the quality of the work can be seen.”